Friday, August 31, 2012

Faster Pastors

In exactly one week, I'll be approaching the ½-way point of a 36-leg relay ~ a running event through the mountains in Colorado. I'm excited about participating in the Ragnar Colorado Relay; I think it'll be a fascinating experience.

The way it works is this: running the thirty-six legs of the relay is shared between twelve people. You can do the math, but it works out to each person running three legs of varying distances … if you're interested, I'll be running third (the third, fifteenth, and twenty-seventh legs at 8.9, 5.0, and 4.4 miles).

I'm stoked for this event for a few reasons. First of all, I'm on a team with eleven other ELCA Lutheran pastors. I don't know about you, but when I think “Lutheran Pastor”, I don't usually think of someone who's capable of running 10 to 20 miles in the space of 30 hours. But we found a dozen of us to team up and do this together.

In addition, I'm stoked because our team, the Faster Pastors, is raising money to be given to the ELCA Malaria Campaign (you should donate …). Malaria is a deadly disease that can be prevented fairly easily through the use of medicated bed nets. These cost about $10 each (you should donate …). There are also anti-malarial drugs to treat the disease once it's been contracted. Delivery and administration of these drugs (of course) takes money. You really should donate.

Finally, I'm stoked about this event because I'll have bragging rights. Sure, the personal bragging rights are pretty nice. But what's more important is that we who have run this event will have better leverage in our congregations to encourage healthier eating on Sunday mornings and at potluck suppers. We'll more readily be able to encourage people to exercise and to keep their bodies fit. It's disingenuous to give someone else instructions or advise that you're not willing to take yourself.

If you feel inclined to make a contribution (you really should …), you can do that here: 

And you should probably give more than $0.02

Thursday, August 30, 2012


There's a very basic conversation that ought to be happening in our nation these days. It's a conversation centered on whether government ought to be larger and have a more significant role in daily life, or whether government ought to be smaller and have a more limited role.

The trouble right now is that the only potential conversation we're even thinking about having is related to how much we ought to hate the other candidate. I've heard that one of the candidates for president is too wealthy, and therefore out of touch with the realities of the everyday life that most of us live. I've heard that the other candidate hates America, and all of his policies are designed to ruin this great country of ours.

I've heard that both are hypocritical ~ that they make promises they have no intention of keeping. I've heard all these things and more … plus, I've heard similar accusations thrown back and forth about the vice-presidential candidates.

I'm sick of all this accusatory nonsense, and I imagine I'm not the only one.

Part of the problem is that when we hear the major candidates and their surrogates vilifying their opponent, we feel like we have permission to do the same. When our co-worker has a different opinion from ours about foreign policy, or taxation, or abortion, or who ought to have the right to get married ~ when we disagree about anything, we have permission to hate our co-worker.

Obviously we don't actually have permission to hate our neighbor ~ but our political atmosphere seems to tell us that we do.

I would love to have an national conversation about the role of government. I would love for that conversation to be respectful, polite, and rational. I would love for people on opposing sides of that (and any other) issue to recognize that the other person is a real person.

I would love for to recognize the holiness of our opponent ~ in my own Christian language, I would love for us to recognize each other as children of G-d.

I would love for each side to remember, and to believe, that their opponent truly does have the best interest of our nation and of generations to come at heart.

I'm not holding my breath.


Monday, August 27, 2012

G-d and Government ~ a scattered, and perhaps incoherent, post

I may be wrong about this ~ for that matter, I may be wrong about almost everything, but that's a discussion for another day. I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that there's an interesting confluence of church and state in some corners of our USAmerican society. There are some folks who are quite vocal about their concern that G-d has been kicked out of our public life.

Stereotypically, these folks want to to have prayer in schools; they want talk about G-d to be pervasive in our governmental systems and structures; they want the world to acknowledge the (false) truth that the founding fathers were conservative and evangelical Christians.

And it seems to me that this group overlaps with the group who keeps resurrecting this continuing kerfluffle over whether President Obama is a Christian or a Muslim.

I don't mind passion for a cause. I don't even mind folks who are passionate about a cause with which I completely disagree. That's part of the beauty of our societal and governmental system ~ we are each entitled to our own opinion, and we have the right to voice our opinion (no matter how well- or ill-informed we are).

Part of what confuses me, though, is how some people read and interpret the constitution. A lot of people are quite familiar with our First Amendment rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution grants all people freedom of speech, freedom of the press, religious freedom, freedom of assembly, and right to petition. We are allowed to say what we want, to publish what we want, to worship (or not) as we wish, to gather together with others, and to bring grievances to the government in order to have conflicts resolved.

I'm no constitutional scholar, but the way I interpret this amendment is that everyone can say and believe what they want; further, no one is allowed to restrict the right of others to say and believe what they want.

So, it seems to me that there are quite a few Christians in this country who are concerned that their religious freedom is being taken away when they aren't allowed to lead public and all-inclusive, specifically Christian prayers in schools and other public venues. I've also heard these Christians complain that this is tantamount to religious oppression.

What seems to me to be more religiously oppressive is when someone leads a prayer on my behalf that I would never pray … and I'm Christian. I can't imagine how much more ostracized Jews and Muslims and Sikhs and everyone else must feel when Christian bullies impose their prayers on everyone.

It also seems to me that the folks who are worked up about prayer in schools are some of the same folks who are worked up because they believe President Obama is Muslim ~ and because they believe having a Muslim president is problematic. What's interesting is that they seem to be ignoring Article VI, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (not an amendment, the Constitution), which states in part that “... no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office of public Trust under the United States.”

So, to those who are worked up about Mr. Obama being Muslim I say, “So What?” The constitution specifically and obviously states that it doesn't matter whether he is Christian or Muslim or Atheist or Satanist.

Those Christians who are so very vocal about valuing the religious freedom granted by the First Amendment for themselves don't seem to value religious freedom granted to others who aren't Christian.

It seems to me that we are left with two options: We can either be a pluralistic nation, embracing and embodying religious freedom for all; or, we can be a Christian nation. We have the government set up to be pluralistic. In order to be a Christian nation, we'd have to rescind significant portions of the Constitution … and I don't think there are many people who would be on board with that.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Incarnate Word

We get to see, on occasion
      the face of G-d
   usually nothing more
      than a glimpsed,
   "was that ... ?"

We get to hear divine vocalizations
   ancient chants echoing
      from cathedral stones
   hawks' screeches, diving
         toward prey, echoing
      from canyon walls
guitars through amps as
      culture meets Christ
   or a still small voice in the silence

We get to smell, often
         (but do we know it?)
      holy aromas
   incense rising with our prayers
      and body odor from society's margins
   freshly-fallen rain
      and the warmth of bread in the oven

We get to touch,
      hold in our palm
   the hand of G-d
      as we shake our neighbors hand
         embrace those beloved to us,
      "Peace be with you"
   and as we touch the world
      we are ourselves embraced
         by G-d's Holy Spirit

We get to taste
         (honey on our lips)
      Incarnate Word
   in berries' sweetness,
      tomatoes warm from the garden,
   peaches, melon, rhubarb,
      sweet corn, apples heavy on the tree
   now burdening summer's table
      as friends gather around
         eating, creating community
   And we taste Incarnate Word
      Bread and Wine
         burdening tables with
            Body & Blood ... given and shed
   we eat together, being
      made ourselves into
Word Incarnate